24 Feb 2009

Bob Higgs No Fan of the Government

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Straight-shootin Bob Higgs learns us all a lesson about fiscal responsibility at LRC today. But before I give you Higgs’ funny conclusion, you need to know what he is responding to. At first I was going to just paraphrase, but folks, you really have to read this New York Times article describing the government’s latest plan:

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve plan to spend as much as $1 trillion to provide low-cost loans and guarantees to hedge funds and private equity firms that buy securities backed by consumer and business loans.

The Fed is expected to start the first phase of the program, which will provide $200 billion in loans to investors, in early March.

The program . . . does not try to change securitization practices that, many investors say, spread risks throughout the world and destroyed financial institutions. Policy makers acknowledge that for now, fixing credit ratings, reducing conflicts of interest and improving disclosure can wait.

Under the program, the Fed will lend to investors who acquire new securities backed by auto loans, credit card balances, student loans and small-business loans at rates ranging from roughly 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

Depending on the type of security they are borrowing against, investors will be able to borrow 84 percent to 95 percent of the face value of the bonds. Investors would not be liable for any losses beyond the 5 percent to 16 percent equity that they retain in the investment.

In the initial phase, the Treasury will provide $20 billion and the Fed will provide $180 billion. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said last week that the Treasury could increase its commitment to $100 billion to allow the Fed to lend up to $1 trillion.

So in response to that, Higgs declares:

Well, there you have it. If you can imagine anything more idiotic in the present circumstances, your imagination is more powerful than mine.

I have this recurring nightmare in which Tim Geithner is lying in a dark corner of a saloon. His bosom buddy Ben Bernanke comes in, sees him lying there in a heap and rushes to his side. He finds his comrade breathing heavily and reeking of a warehouse worth of booze. He shouts for help: “Bartender, get over here quick. Bring this man a whiskey. And make it a double!”

Into such hands has fate delivered us. May God have mercy on our souls.

Go get em, Bob!

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